Continuing to make good on their threat to remake their classic and beloved animated films into live-action movies, Disney has come out with their latest casualty: Dumbo. To be fair, 2015's live-action Cinderella is a wonderful movie that is colorful in both performances and visual look. The new Dumbo, directed by Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands), with a ham-handed script by Ehren Kruger (Arlington Road, Transformers: Age of Extinction), is generally a dour experience.
Every character in this movie is absolutely miserable, and that is the last thing I want in a fantasy about a flying elephant. Let's start with Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell), a World War I amputee and widower who returns home to his two children (Nico Parker, Finley Hobbins) and his job at the circus. Because of the loss of his arm, he isn't able to perform the rodeo show he did before the war, so he is put in charge of the elephants. One of the elephants gives birth to a calf with giant ears. The baby elephant is ridiculed and called Dumbo because of his ears and clumsiness. After he is separated from his mother, it is discovered that Dumbo can fly by using his ears as wings. Soon, a billionaire, V. A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), has his sights set on the little flying elephant.
The digital Dumbo is cute, but he isn't given too much personality, and a digital comic-relief monkey looks so fake that he hardly registers. Dumbo's flying sequences do spark some excitement, but the shots of trapeze artist Colette Marchant (Eva Green) riding on his back just look awkward. Visually, the film is dark and drab. And the writing is so broad that Farrier's kids constantly make like a Greek chorus to tell us exactly what is going on, just in case we were distracted.
Then there is the big finale where the circus performers help rescue Dumbo and his mother. This should have been exciting and fun, but it plays with such low energy.
Stick with the 1941 animated feature.